As the drive for jobs, jobs, jobs! echoes through the election season political bubble, the topic of climate change - often left on the outer fringe of discussion - got its time in the limelight this week, if only for a fleeting moment.
“People are nervous to talk about it,” CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin told fellow Now w/ Alex Wagner panelists on Friday. Right now, the election “is a jobs story.”
It seems that both President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney are afraid to touch the issues of climate change and energy policy for fear that it won’t poll well and that they’ll be called weak on the economy. But while the economy has always played a central role in all presidential elections, it hasn’t always been the be-all, end-all of hot button political issues. Not so long ago, there was a lot of buzz around climate change, global warming, and sustainable energy plans. These issues were important enough to put Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich on a couch together to talk about reform. It was something that both candidates openly discussed in 2008 – John McCain even had a climate plan!
Tuesday’s second presidential debate was the most this election has seen of climate discussion in recent months. Romney asserted that oil production decreased under President Obama, a claim debunked by The New York Times, while the president ticked off a short list of energy successes from more fuel efficient cars to high rates of natural gas production. In the end, the conversation was steeped in economic context, stemming from a question about how much the U.S. can control gas prices, leaving little discussion on where global warming fits in to their future policies.
Obama “in part” crafted his energy policy with scientific facts and studies on global warming in mind, but was skimpy on the details during the debate explaining how global warming factored into his policy. Yet if he turns the discussion away from jobs, his opponent will surely jump on him for distracting the conversation away from what really matters: it’s the economy, stupid.
CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin and New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait on Friday agreed that while people may want to hear about energy policy and climate change, they wouldn’t tell Obama to change gears and talk climate over economy, lest he be charged as anything but “the jobs president” by Mitt Romney.
So while msnbc host Alex Wagner would be happy with just a small tease of what the next four years of Obama energy policy would look like, it doesn’t seem likely to happen. With so little time to November 6th the message has to be: jobs, jobs, jobs!